The New York attorney general’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
The office found that Cuomo harassed current and former state employees, as well as a number of women outside of state government, James said, as the office released a lengthy report on the investigation.
James said Tuesday that her investigation found that Cuomo engaged in “unwelcome and nonconsensual touching,” and made comments of a “suggestive” sexual nature. James said that the conduct created a “hostile work environment for women.”
Cuomo’s conduct violated multiple federal and state laws, James said.
The governor denied the allegations. “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said in a speech Tuesday.
Cuomo’s behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other state employees, including a State Trooper on his protective detail, as well as members of the public, the attorney general’s report states.
“We also conclude that the Executive Chamber’s culture – one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments – contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist,” investigators Joon Kim and Anne Clark wrote in the report. “That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment.”
The report details the allegations of 11 women claiming harassment. Investigators found all 11 women to be credible, Clark said, adding that their accounts had been corroborated to varying degrees. One accuser, Charlotte Bennett, told people and texted with people in real time about her interactions with the governor, according to Clark. One of the touching incidents alleged by the trooper was witnessed by another state trooper, who confirmed it to investigators, Clark said.
“I believe women. And I believe these 11 women,” James said
The report states Cuomo made specific denials of conduct that complainants recalled clearly, but investigators said “we found his denials to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of evidence obtained during our investigation.”
Investigators spoke to 179 individuals, and reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence, James said. That evidence painted a “deeply disturbing yet clear picture,” she added.
The investigators repeatedly described Cuomo’s conduct as “unlawful.” A footnote in the report, however, said that the report was not reaching a conclusion as to “whether the conduct amounts to or should be the subject of criminal prosecution.”
Several investigations into Cuomo’s office
The investigation into the sexual harassment claims is one of several that the state attorney general’s office has launched into Cuomo and his inner circle, as a political firestorm has raged around the governor in recent months. The controversies that have swirled around Cuomo are a far cry from the acclaim he received at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In January, James unveiled a report of her review of how his administration handled nursing home deaths during the Covid-19 outbreak, which found that his administration undercounted by about 50 percent the deaths of nursing home residents. Additionally, James is investigating whether Cuomo used official resources for the writing and roll out of his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo has denied allegations of touching anyone inappropriately but released a statement in February acknowledging that some of his workplace remarks “”may have been insensitive or too personal.” The statement said he was “truly sorry” to those who might have “misinterpreted (the remarks) as an unwanted flirtation.”
The backlash has included New York’s Democratic legislature, where lawmakers have revoked some of Cuomo’s temporary emergency powers and have launched an impeachment probe.
The allegations against Cuomo ramped up earlier this year when, in February, a former aide took her account of uncomfortable interactions with the governor to The New York Times. That aide, Charlotte Bennett, alleged that Cuomo had asked her questions about her sex life during a June 2020 conversation in his office in the state Capitol. She told the newspaper that she interpreted Cuomo’s comments to be “clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
Another ex-aide, Lindsey Boylan, came forward with allegations against Cuomo of her own, claiming in a February Medium post that he had engaged in inappropriate gestures, including an unwanted kiss.
Cuomo was questioned by investigators from the attorney general’s office for over 11 hours last month.
This story has been updated with Cuomo’s response.